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Judgement will be delivered in the Constitutional Court on Wednesday 30 September 2009 at 10:00 in the matter of Chonco and 383 others against the Minister of Justice. IFP Justice spokesperson Koos van der Merwe MP says he is praying that justice will finally prevail after more than five long wasted years.
The 384 applications by prisoners for presidential pardon were submitted some five years ago in accordance with section 84(2)(j) of the Constitution, but have not been considered. During these five long years while the applicants were languishing in prison, the Human Rights Commission on 4 January 2007 found the former Minister of Justice, Bridgette Mabandla, guilty of human rights violations for not considering these applications and ordered her to finalise them within three months. She flatly ignored that finding.
The Minister was then taken to the Pretoria High Court where Judge Seriti on 11 March 2008 ordered the Minister to finalise those applications within three months. The Minister, still refusing to attend to the applications, appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal where five SCA Judges on 30 March 2009 unanimously rejected the Minister's appeal and confirmed Judge Seriti's judgement. The Minister then appealed to the Constitutional Court where judgement will be delivered on 30 September at 10:00.
Van der Merwe said: "I simply cannot believe what we have been subjected to. Applications by, for instance, 33 ANC applicants were considered in good time; were granted pardon and released from prison. In fact, thousands of applications for pardon have been considered by the Minister of Justice since 1994 after which date proposals are made to the President who has the last say. But in this case, neither the President, who is certainly aware of this miscarriage of justice, nor the Minister of Justice, is carrying out their constitutional duties. The Minister, at huge legal costs to the taxpayer, is refusing to consider these particular applications, although thousands of others have been considered over 15 years."
Van der Merwe added: "The Minister's purely technical "defence" on appeal is that there is nothing explicit in the Constitution or in Law that lays this task on the Minister. It is, however, trite that the exercise of public power is subject to judicial control. In this instance the Minister exercised public power. Should the ruling by the Concourt therefore be against the prisoners, it can only be based on new law being laid down mainly that the exercise of public power by the Minister in this instance, is not subject to judicial control. This will have serious implications for democracy."